Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The First Call Home

I got texts from Phoenix Sky Harbor and St. Louis today, getting closer and closer to basic training at Ft. Leonard Wood, MO.  A couple of hours ago his mother got the one phone call, and I'm told it went something like this:  "I have safely arrived at Ft. Leonard Wood."  Click.

It's getting real now!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Let's Not Teach Calculus In High School Anymore

Yes, let's dumb down our curriculum so that everyone succeeds!

I love teaching statistics, and I agree with this author that statistics is more practical for most people than is calculus.  But can you spot the false dichotomy here?
Let’s get rid of high school calculus and start teaching young students the math skills they really need.
We can, and should, do both--teach kids the skills they need and teach calculus to those who are capable of learning it. 

And don't you love this comment?  Where does it not apply?  Let's just postpone every high-level class to college!
And those who do need it (calculus) – future engineers, physicists, and the like – can take it in college.
The same can be said for chemistry, biology, literature, sociology...

Let's just call a spade a spade here.  The author has written a stupid column.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Agency Fees Are In

The "impartial" arbitrator--why isn't this person an "arbiter"?--has spoken, and here are the chargeable fees for my union contribution:
local union and CTA:  71.9%
NEA:  36%

Note that that means that over 28% of my state and local union dues are not related to anything that the "impartial" arbitrator can justify making me pay for, and 64% of the national union dues are for non-chargeable activities (read, Democratic/progressive/liberal politics). 

Always remember--liberals love compulsion.  It's who they are, it's what they do.  They enjoy making me pay for a union I don't want to support.  So I get back the non-chargeable fees after jumping through their hoops, but I don't want to associate with them at all.  Force, compulsion, and groupthink--that's what you get with unions.

It's A Wonder Our Schools Are As Good As They Are

If you want to read about schools of education, and what they do and don't do, go here.  It's pretty sad.
Ed schools are big on reflection, but don’t teach prospective teachers how to teach, complains Peter Sipe, a Boston middle school teacher, in the Boston Herald.

While he went to ed school, his wife was in medical school. She learned how to be a doctor. He reflected...
Pilots aren’t trained by forming small groups to discuss the atmosphere. Cadets don’t become cops by writing weekly responses to Crime and Punishment.

. . . The logic was, I believe, that we would receive our practical training on the job. And I guess I did. But it was rather in the manner one would learn by being told to find the manual after the starboard engines quit.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

I'm Not The Only One Who Thinks So

From Community College Spotlight:
Group learning “is a waste of classroom time and an obstacle to student learning,” argues Bruce Gans, who taught English at City Colleges of Chicago...

Group projects are supposed to teach students to collaborate. Gans is dubious. “Groups are creatures of compromise, consensus, the intellectual mean, the mediocre.”

Having students evaluate each other’s writing doesn’t work if nobody’s a good writer, argues Troy Camplin, a lecturer in English at University of North Texas in Dallas.

A remedial writing student asked why we did peer review since, “I feel like I’m getting nothing but bad advice. I mean, they don’t know any more than I do.”
As a student I always hated group work.  Chances are that I had the best grades in the group, why should I have to negotiate and compromise with people who didn't get the grades I could get?  Every year the biggest complaint I get in my statistics classes is from students who had someone in their group who didn't pull their own weight.  Why are the rest of them responsible for that?  I am the one who required them to work in groups, and I do it just so I can tell my bosses that I periodically do so.

I'm sure that in certain situations and under certain situations, group work (or "collaborative learning") can be useful.  But in general you can count me as a skeptic.

If This Is All You've Got, Then The War Is Over. There's No More Racism. Go Home.

When ice cream truck music is racist, when that's all you have to complain about it, then it's over:
When you hear an ice cream truck play Turkey in the Straw, think about the racist lyrics written for the tune 100 years ago, writes Theodore R. Johnson III on NPR’s blog...

Demands for a “national conversation” on race will not transform the lives of black Americans, writes McWhorter. “Shouldn’t we focus on race as it exists in the only real world we will ever know—where there has never been a way to settle old scores perfectly, but in the end, what matters is getting over? Change happens, if slowly. As blacks in America move on, we can admit that sometimes, an ice cream jingle is just an ice cream jingle.”
And liberals say it's conservatives who perpetually live in the 50's.

"Here Men From Planet Earth..."

I remember, as a very young child, being awakened oh so early to watch "the rockets".  A decade or more later I'd get myself up at ungodly hours to watch the space shuttles take off.

But Apollo 11 was the biggie.  I sometimes wish I was older so that I could truly have experienced what it was like for mankind when Eagle touched down in the Sea of Tranquility.  It must have seemed like the end of an era, or perhaps the beginning of a new one.  Sadly, it turned out to be neither.  But that doesn't take away from what those three astronauts did on today's date in 1969.

Congratulations to Neil, Michael, and Buzz.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Last Full Day

Today is my son's last full day of freedom for a very long time.

Tomorrow his mother and I will take him to lunch and then take him to a hotel, where he and a bunch of other recruits will finish up paperwork and other routine tasks.  He'll be free again some time on Monday evening, when any friend and family member who wants to (or can make it on short notice) will meet up for dinner.

At zero-dark-thirty on Tuesday they board a plane and off they go for basic training.  I'm proud and nervous at the same time.

I realize that if I've done my job right, he'll be able to handle this.  On the other hand, this will be the first time ever where I'll be powerless to intervene to protect my son if he needs it.  Yes, I realize my apprehensions are more about me than they are about him, but that doesn't make me feel any more secure!

Update:  Everything's been pushed back a day now.   We're not sure if this is a change or if the NCO we spoke to the other day was incorrect.  Either way, he has one more day :)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

It Was A Long Time Ago

Eighteen years ago today I became a dad:
Today at 1:00 we go to the recruiter's office to get the "this is what you parents can expect, this is what'll be going on" talk--since he leaves for basic training next week.

Holy crap.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Recommendations

A friend of mine just left Venice for Budapest.  I'd forgotten that he'd asked where I stayed in Venice when I went two years ago, but he apparently did, and I apparently told him--because he stayed at the same place and enjoyed it as much as I did.

As he was checking out yesterday he and his travel companion were scrolling through the guest book looking for other visitors from California.  He found this in the book and sent it to me on Facebook:

School Meals For All

Yesterday on my drive to Oakland I was listening to a talk radio show and the subject of "free school lunches for all" came up.  A principal from a school that provides meals to all called in and I thought he did an exceptional job of explaining and defending the program.  Also, the talk radio hosts did a great job of challenging the program.  It was the kind of respectful, earnest discussion that I enjoy hearing about difficult problems, and it's why I listen to this particular show when I drive to work each day during the school year :-)

To summarize, if I may, the principal said that kids can't learn if they're hungry, and while this program should only be a stopgap measure, it's still necessary.  The radio hosts said that if parents don't have to feed their kids, why would they ever be motivated to buy food and provide for their kids? 

I don't want to provide any more information than this as I think you should hear the discussion firsthand, so I seriously encourage you to go here and listen to the principal's call (it starts at 33:45 and ends at about 38:30).  I hope you'll be as impressed as I was about how well both sides conducted themselves and presented their arguments.

Last year I wrote about my own school district's participation in the summer "we'll feed your kids at no cost to you" program here.

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Funny Things Libs Argue About Amongst Themselves

You gotta admit, it's pretty funny:
When harmlessly confined to a secluded space where only a select few will hear them — like a show on CNN — their ideas really are a delightfully absurd parody of a delightfully absurd leftist being delightfully absurd. It’s like an infinite regress of comedy.

To wit:  here’s CNN’s Don Lemon — who once wondered aloud whether a black hole might have swallowed that missing Malaysian jetliner — moderating a debate between University of Mississippi senior Sierra Mannie and writer and comedian H. Alan Scott. Miss Mannie wrote an article for Time demanding that white gay people “stop stealing black female culture.”
I don’t care how well you can quote Madea, who told you that your booty was getting bigger than hers, how cute you think it is to call yourself a strong black woman, who taught you to twerk, how funny you think it is to call yourself Quita or Keisha or for which black male you’ve been bottoming — you are not a black woman, and you do not get to claim either blackness or womanhood. It is not yours. It is not for you…
Oh just go watch the video!

Efficiency and Exasperation

I don't know if the recruiters told my son and he didn't clue in until recently, or if they misinformed him, but we recently got word that when he reports in to enlist next week, he'll need an official copy of his birth certificate--his US passport isn't sufficient to prove his citizenship, even though we had to submit a birth certificate to get a passport!  But that's a different story.

I live in a suburb of the capital city; one would think it would be an easy thing to drive downtown to the state Department of Vital Statistics, request a copy of his birth certificate, and be done with it.  If only it were that easy!

See, the state doesn't have a walk-in, get-your-birth-certificate location.  No, if you want to order a birth certificate from the state, you submit a request and pay your fee and the certificate will be snail-mailed to you in a few weeks.  We don't have a few weeks, we have a few days.

I guess it's a good thing I'm not working right now.  The way to get a birth certificate while-you-wait is to go to the county of birth and get one there.

This morning I got up early and headed to Oakland, county seat of Alameda County.  It was 90+ minutes to Oakland, about 45 in the clerk-recorder's office, and 90+ minutes back.  I have a certified and embossed and pretty copy of his birth certificate now.

So what's my problem?  When I got to Oakland they said birth certificates were maintained digitally.  By the state.  No doubt on a server in Sacramento.  The clerk accessed the birth certificate online and printed it out on a laser printer a few feet away.

It was impossible for me to have this done in Sacramento County because my son wasn't born in Sacramento County.  If the records are maintained by the state, though, why does it matter in what county they're printed?

And there's my exasperation!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

"Fair Share" Supporters Are Just Thugs Who Want To Compel Others

The secretary-treasurer of the UAW is more correct than most u-bots, which is why he makes sense:
“This is something I’ve never understood, that people think right to work hurts unions,” Casteel said in February. “To me, it helps them. You don’t have to belong if you don’t want to. So if I go to an organizing drive, I can tell these workers, ‘If you don’t like this arrangement, you don’t have to belong.’ Versus, ‘If we get 50 percent of you, then all of you have to belong, whether you like to or not.’ I don’t even like the way that sounds.  Because [Right to Work is] a voluntary system, if you don’t think the system’s earning its keep, then you don’t have to pay.”
How many times have I said it? Part of the problem with fair-share compulsion is that, since unions are entitled to the money no matter what, they are not accountable to the membership.  Mr. Casteel seems to recognize this, and good on him for doing so.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

"A Billion Here, A Billion There, And Pretty Soon You're Talking About Real Money"

I can't stand being nickel-and-dimed.  When I book a flight, it's entirely reasonable to expect that my suitcase is included in the cost of the ticket; sadly, only a couple airlines apply that reasoning anymore.  I don't like going to a hotel and getting hit with a "resort fee"--and sometimes they're not even resorts!

I hope grocery stores don't start getting into this game, charging "mandatory" shopping cart usage fees and parking fees.

When a student goes to college, their tuition and boarding fees should be absolute.  I understand buying books, but books don't even have to be bought at the school itself.  But what I'll call "university level" expenses should be fixed, known, and transparent.

But universities today are hitting students with the equivalent of baggage fees and resort fees, and these fees, like their cousins in the travel industry, are not only wrong, they're significant:
To solve this problem, UCLA is introducing a $4 student fee to pay for better concerts. That illuminates a budgeting issue in higher education -- and indeed among human beings more generally.

That $4 is not a large fee. Even the poorest student can probably afford it. On the other hand, collectively, UCLA’s student fees are significant: more than $3,500, or about a quarter of the mandatory cost of attending UCLA for a year.

Those fees are made up of many items, each trivial individually. Only collectively do they become a major source of costs for students and their families and potentially a barrier to college access for students who don’t have an extra $3,500 lying around.
That's an additional $3500/yr, above and beyond the posted "sticker price". 

Here's a fun activity:  choose a school, find what its annual fees are that are not included in tuition, and then determine each component of those fees--in other words, where that money is supposed to go.  In many cases you'll be shocked--if you can get the information.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Pearl Harbor/USS Arizona

I only went to the Arizona Memorial, but there are plenty of other sites to see in Pearl Harbor including the USS Bowfin (submarine), USS Missouri (battleship), and the Pacific Aviation Museum.

click to enlarge
Your intrepid blogger at the entrance


One of Arizona's anchors



You can see patches of oil that still leak from the hull






Missouri and Arizona



Diversity in the Classroom

A refreshing take.  I'm not quite sure where I stand on same-sex classrooms, I don't know if there are any reputable studies on the subject, but I'm certainly open to parental choice.  But how far should that choice go in public schools?
Today, it was reported that a girls’ state school in Bradford has been criticised by Ofsted for only employing female teachers. Feversham College, a Muslim school, has been told to hire positive male role models for its 664 girls, aged 11-18, who currently have an ‘all-female learning environment’.

Its head teacher has stated that the school - which used to be private - was established "in response to parental demand for single-sex education based on religious beliefs" and said the policy had been accepted when the it applied for voluntary-aided status in 2001.

That may be. But, as Chief Executive of the Girls' Day School Trust (GDST) - a group of 26 independent schools and academies in England and Wales - I can't help but agree with the Ofsted report. Simply, we can’t argue for diversity in the boardroom and then not allow it in the staffroom.

Girls’ schools have long been at the forefront of extending opportunities for young women. We expect, quite rightly, that no doors will be closed to the girls leaving us at the end of their school lives this month and going on to university, or the world of work.

So it would be hypocritical in the extreme - not to mention incompatible with equal opportunities legislation - for us to argue that teaching, or senior leadership roles, in girls’ schools should be female-only enclaves.
Before some of our womyn readers hyperventilate, please note the sex of the author of the piece--and her position. She has to walk the walk.

Colors in Hawaii











Sculpture

Statues and sculpture everywhere I went in Hawaii:
 Queen Liliuokalani, Hawaii's last monarch


 King Kamehameha I, a united Hawaii's first monarch


 on Waikiki Beach


on Waikiki Beach


Duke


At Fort DeRussy, honoring AJA's (Americans of Japanese ancestry) who fought in World War II






 In the Onizuka Science Center at Kona Airport, honoring a local boy who made good


In the outdoor "terminal", for lack of a better term, at Kona Int'l Airport

Men Are From Mars, Etc.

It seems silly to me to claim that there are no differences, in general and in the aggregate, between men and and women and how their brains operate.  It might not be politically correct to have such beliefs, but until very recently they were considered entirely reasonable to have.

What happens when you apply a little statistics to boys' and girls' math and reading scores?  About what you'd expect, if you trust the numbers over political correctness:
Claims are often made by gender activists like UW-Madison psychology professor Janet Hyde that “There just aren’t gender differences anymore in math performance. So parents and teachers need to revise their thoughts about this. Stereotypes are very, very resistant to change, but as a scientist I have to challenge them with data.”

Well, I’d like to challenge Professor Hyde by looking at some recent data that suggest exactly the opposite – boys consistently outperform girls on standardized math tests. Oh, and by the way, girls outperform boys on standardized reading tests.
The complete post is here, including easy-to-understand graphs.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Mauna Kea Observatories

We leave and return home tomorrow, so today we were out sightseeing.  On a road near Waimea I was able to see some of the observatories on top of Mauna Kea:
As Jesse Pinkman would say, "Science, bitch!"

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Go East, Young Man

Today we took a day trip east, to Mauna Kea, Rainbow Falls in Hilo, and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Volcanoes was wild.  One moment we'd be on a moonscape, and then, seemingly without warning, we'd be in a tropical rain forest.  The weather up on Kilauea changed on a dime, too, going from cloudy to sunny to drizzly to some combination of all three!
click to enlarge
 Your intrepid blogger overlooking "The Saddle" between Mauna Kea and the volcano Mauna Loa (in the background)


Rainbow Falls, Hilo



Steam and volcanic gases vent from Kilauea's caldera during the day...


...and glow from the lava deep below at night.



Petroglyphs


Lava tube


Sea arch

Monday, July 07, 2014

Knowing Worthless Knowledge

When I was in high school, the Journey song Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin' was popular.  I wondered how many "na's" were at the end of the song, thinking that some day that useless piece of knowledge would come in handy.  A decade or more later I was driving along I-880 through Oakland on my way to go camping at Dillon Beach and the DJ on the radio asked a trivia question, for which I don't remember the prize:  how many na's at the end of Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'?  It was the early 90s and I was a dozen years or so from owning a cell phone, but if I could have gotten to a pay phone I'd definitely have been the first to answer that question--there are 154 na's, 7 groups of 22 each.

Also when I was in high school, my mother took a trip to Hawaii.  She brought me back a very cool t-shirt with a Hawaiian fish on it.  The Hawaiian state fish.

About 45 minutes ago I was at a "show" put on by the recreation staff here at the timeshares at which we're staying.  The last raffle prize was a ticket to a local comedy show, and after several attempts were made and people weren't present to win, the hosts decided to ask a trivia question.  The question:  what is Hawaii's state fish?  My hand shot up first, I answered the question correctly, and now I have a ticket to a comedy show.

Hawaii's state fish is the humuhumunukunukuapua'a which, if I remember correctly, means fish with a snout like a pig :-)

Ditching Common Core?

Colorado teacher (and former RotLC commenter) Mike Mazenko offers a well-written piece on why Bill Gates, et. al., should get out of the Common Core business.

Because Common Core been pushed by the Obama Administration, California is still mid-fellatio regarding those standards.  We'll go full steam ahead even if every other state in the union drops them.

Xey Are Insane

What possesses people in education to do such things?
The Vancouver (British Columbia) Board of Education has approved a sweeping new policy for accommodating lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, two-spirit, queer, questioning and “all sexual and gender identities,” including the creation of three pronouns, replacing masculine and feminine with xe, xem and xyr (pronounced ze, zem and zur)...

The Vancouver Board of Education's policy also includes making restroom and sports activities accessible to all transgender students, regardless of their biological sex.

“Absolutely,” Mike Lombardi, vice chairman of the board told CNSNews.com when asked about the new policy as reported by the Vancouver Sun. “We’ve been very, very progressive."
They've been something, but "progressive" isn't the word that comes to my mind.

Hat tip to reader PeggyU for the link.

Intellectuals Are Bad Luck

First we learn a little about intellectuals:
Further to Joe Salerno’s post on “Hayek and the Intellectuals,” it’s worth adding that Hayek was not alone in thinking of the intellectual class as naturally hostile to the market economy. In particular, there are many similarities between Hayek’s ideas and those found in Schumpeter’s “Sociology of the Intellectuals.”

Schumpeter famously argued in Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy (1942; three years before Hayek’s essay) that the entrepreneurial economy creates wealth and improves social conditions to such an extent that it eventually undermines itself and is replaced with socialism. Entrepreneurs are so successful that people take them for granted; in fact, people resent entrepreneurship and innovation, because the constant transformation of the economy gives them feelings of instability and uncertainty.
That takes us to a Heinlein quote to which Instapundit periodically refers:
“Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded—here and there, now and then—are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.

This is known as ‘bad luck’.”
QED.

Tiger in the Harbor

Today as the family's dive boat (I don't dive) was leaving the dock, the call went out to everyone within earshot:  tiger (shark) in the harbor! Everyone on the boats strained to look:

When I go into the forest I don't want to encounter a bear or a mountain lion, but these diving psychos hope to encounter sharks!  No freakin' way.  Not me.

I'm glad they had a good time :-)

Friday, July 04, 2014

Sexist Article!

With its title, is CNN suggesting that the women justices on the Supreme Court are throwing a hissy fit?
Supreme Court women lash out at birth control decision
CNN's @WarOnWomen!!!

You don't want businesses making decisions about birth control?  Don't require business to pay for your health insurance.  The contortions the liberals go through to justify the abomination of Obamacare are truly amazing.

Independence Day

Hope you're enjoying the holiday as much as I am!  Just as our forefathers did back in 1776, I spent the day catching rays out on the beach :-)  Tonight at 8:30 there will be a fireworks show.

Tomorrow I leave Oahu and meet up with family who've been in Kona while I've been here....

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Mixed Emotions

Today I went to the Valor in the Pacific monument, home of the USS Missouri and USS Arizona, among others.  What a melange of emotions I experienced there.

As I wrote on Facebook, anyone who can visit there without tears is either stronger than I, without a heart or soul, or both.  It is a poignant, solemn place.

And then I got angry when I saw Japanese tourists there.  What the heck were they doing there?  They shouldn't be there!  But I recognized that those were visceral emotions, seeking someone to blame, someone on whom I could foist my own emotions.  Logic took over and I realized that they were no more responsible for the attack because they were born Japanese than I am responsible for slavery because I was born a white American.  The people who are responsible for that attack are mostly dead, as are the people who survived it.  Those of us today just honor.

click to enlarge
Didn't wear this Go Army shirt to show disrespect to the Navy--army bases were attacked, too.  I wore it to be pro-military.

As soon as we got off the tender at the Arizona, I could smell the oil.  It was strong.







The captain went down with the ship.

The "bookends of the war"--USS Arizona, where the war started for the US, and USS Missouri, upon which Japan signed the surrender document ending the war.

Mighty Mo, USS Missouri.  I chose not to take (and pay for) the tour as, just a couple years ago, my son and I toured her sister ship, USS New Jersey.

There are other sights to see there as well, including USS Bowfin:
Also known as the Pearl Harbor Avenger, USS Bowfin was launched a year after Pearl Harbor.  I've been aboard the Pampanito in San Francisco and the Bacuna in Philadelphia so I didn't go aboard Bowfin.  There are other sites and museums in the vicinity--could easily spend 5 or more hours there.

A few displays and videos here, as well as at the Army Museum at Fort DeRussy, attempted to give a "Japanese perspective" on the attack, explaining why the Empire did what it did.  I don't give a flying frak why they did what they did--do we try to understand and explain why a rapist does what he does?  No, we condemn him immediately and without question.  I don't care why the attack took place, I condemn it.  Without question.

That's the feeling I left Pearl Harbor with.

I think I'll spend the rest of the day at Waikiki Beach, trying not to think of the of the horror I saw memorialized this morning.